PRESENT AND ACCOUNTED FOR
Mamalilikulla’s vision for a sustainable stewardship future
“We want to be present on our lands and waters in a way we have not been able to be for generations,” says Mamalilkulla First Nation Chief Richard Sumner emphatically. “We want to let people know that we’re here, taking care of our territory. As a sovereign people, we intend to exercise our rights over our lands and waters, and to protect them.”
It’s a vision for the future of Mamalilikulla’s stewardship of their territory that extends beyond conservation activity to sustainability at every level: of the First Nation’s stewardship program, of the capacity of its members to be employed full time and year-round in the program, and not least of all, of the territory itself.
A challenging path
“That’s not easy for us,” says Chief Sumner. “It’s a challenge for all of the First Nations communities in this region to support stewardship efforts and to create well-paid, meaningful employment for our people.” To date, the Mamalililkulla Guardians have only been active seasonally, monitoring activity in the territory over the summer months. “That’s not enough in terms of the work required to be done or providing sustainable employment,” says the Chief.
He points out that Mamalilikulla are also up against a broad spectrum of issues to confront in protecting their territory: commercial over-fishing, the threat of oil spills, high volumes of marine traffic, and the impacts of logging are just some of the activities taking place that have to be monitored and dealt with.
Meeting the challenges head-on
He’s undeterred, however: “We’re small but we’re resourceful, and we’re looking for ways to build up our capacity.” Mamalililkulla are aiming for the program to be sustainable by next fiscal year. Three Mamalililkulla Guardians are in training with Vancouver Island University’s Stewardship Technician Certificate Program, supported by Nanwakolas Council. Tomas Puglas is currently in his second year of the program, and Darren Puglas and Wayne Bell are in their first year of training.
In the meantime, no time is being wasted to move forward with the work: “We’re heading up in January to do some trail-clearing, build a shelter and install interpretative signs, and prepare to put a new dock on Village Island,” says Chief Sumner. “We’re making it happen.”
A vision for the future
Five years from now, says Chief Sumner: “I’d like to see a crew of nine Guardians, not just three, all of them working full-time, year-round and being paid a decent wage for doing so that supports them living in the territory and growing their families here. I’m aiming for there to be a really good headquarters for them to operate from in the territory.” It might be a stretch to get there in five years, he adds, but he would also like to to see Mamalililkulla Guardians exercising regulatory authority in the territory with recognized compliance and enforcement roles.
“In our vision statement,” concludes Chief Sumner, “we speak of creating the opportunity for a strong, self-sufficient sovereign Mamalilikulla Nation. Our stewardship program will be part of that opportunity. I know we can do this.”